With basketball season rapidly approaching and a lot of information to digest from around the conference, I thought it was high time we here from bloggers representing them. We kick off a series in roundtables with our first five today and we are doing our very best to round up the rest of the B1G for you! We hope you enjoy the feature and give us plenty of feedback!
We’re doing our best attempt at giving everyone a good picture of each team with a variety of questions. I want to take this opportunity to thank our first four panelist; Covering Purdue and a great video guy that you can catch here exclusively to tBBC at times, WCBI TV’s own Robby Donoho and his latest video ; covering Spartan Nation is one of the best in that state up north in Hondo Carpenter; taking care of the Hoosiers for us from Crimson Quarry is John M. featured blogger for them and very well respected in the state just west of us; getting us straight with Bucky Badger will be Andy from Mad Town Badgers a great blog for Wisconsin; and finally but certainly not least, my old writing partner here at tBBC and current Buckeye Empire member Joe Dexter.
Hondo S. Carpenter Sr.. Spartan Nation. Keith Appling (G) is a key player back for the Spartans. He is Tom Izzo’s “guy” on this team and with that comes a lot of minutes. Not a natural point, that is the only spot he could play at the next level and Izzo is committed to him playing there.
Adreian Payne (C) is a native of Ohio and if you are a Buckeye fan, you would think he is all world. Against the Buckeyes he lives up to the hype he had coming out of high school. Against every other team, he is a key role player.
Derrick Nix (C) is the best of the MSU big men. Not as athletic as Payne, he can bang with anyone and take the ball and the game to the rim.
Branden Dawson (F/G) is listed by MSU as a G, but he is a SF. He is the real deal. Arguably, Dawson is the best player on the team. He suffered a late season injury, but he will for sure be 100% by conference play. They say before that, but MSU in my opinion has a history of rushing players back too fast. He is too valuable with too much basketball ahead of him to rush it. He is a complete player.
Robby Donoho. WCBI TV. Purdue. With such a young team this season, leadership is going to be more important than ever. With that being said, DJ Byrd is the most important player for this team going into 2012-2013. The lone scholarship senior on the roster, Coach Matt Painter will have to rely heavily on the up and down forward from Crawfordsville, IN. Next to Byrd, Terone Johnson will have to be looked to as the go-to player when Purdue needs a bucket this season. For far too long in West Lafayette TJ hasn’t wowed us with the brilliance he showed us in high school. We saw a glimpse of it in the NCAA Tournament with his dazzling play against St. Mary’s and Kansas, but truly the importance for this year’s team will lie in how they will protect the paint. Purdue missed JaJuan Johnson’s presence inside last year, and the Boilers are very young in the front court this upcoming season. They will rely heavily on juniors Travis Carroll and Sandi Marcius along with 7-foot freshman A.J. Hammons, who’s still extremely raw but provides size inside for an otherwise lanky and small team.
John M. Crimson Quarry. The top of the list, of course, is Cody Zeller, who is perhaps the odds-on favorite to win national player of the year and to be the first player selected in the 2013 NBA Draft. Of the ten Hoosiers who played 8 or more minutes per game in 2011-12, seven return. In addition to Zeller, IU returns double figure scorers Christian Watford, Victor Oladipo, and Jordan Hulls, as well as key reserves Will Sheehey, Derek Elston, and Remy Abell. The wild card is Maurice Creek. In December 2009, Creek was the nation’s leading freshman scorer and was shooting 44 percent from three point range when he broke his kneecap on a non-contact play. Just over a year later, about halfway into the season, he broke his other kneecap on a similar play. Last fall, before the season, he tore his Achilles tendon and missed the entire 2011-12 season. I don’t think anyone knows what to expect. If he can return to the form he showed as a freshman, then he will add even more depth and will be impossible to keep off the court. I don’t necessarily think that’s likely, but it would be great for him and for the team. Finally, sophomore Austin Etherington didn’t play much as a freshman but is reputed to be an excellent three point shooter.
Joe Dexter. Buckeye Empire. The benefit of being generally young the last few seasons has allowed head coach Thad Matta to start of with plenty of experience the last few seasons. The Buckeyes return three starters from a year ago in Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Deshaun Thomas – as well as plenty of role players from a year ago that are ready to make a bigger impact. Offensively, it all starts with Thomas, who turned it up in the post-season a year ago. This season, he will be asked to fill more of an inside role, but it shouldn’t be an issue, because Thomas is one of the best 2nd chance scorers in the country. He is a playmaker that changes games and will be relied upon heavily early in the season. Facilitating the offense will be Aaron Craft. Simply put, words can’t describe what his heart, intangibles, and leadership brings to this program. Defensively, he teams with Smith Jr. as arguable the best defensive backcourt in the country. His on-ball defending skills allow the defense to play a more open style. And his creation of points on offense often is overrated.
Andy. Mad Town Badgers. Wisconsin has three key returning players in forwards Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans as well as guard Josh Gasser. Evans was the spark plug for the 2011-12 version of the Badgers and we need him to continue that production. Gasser could get a crack at being our point guard and his ball handling skills will be huge no matter if he’s there or at the two.
Hondo. Spartan Nation. Draymond Green. Enough said. He was the heart and soul of this team. Green brought an ownership of the boards and the locker room. Green is a charismatic young man and frankly a once in a generation type leader and person. In my lifetime, he is the second most meaningful MSU basketball player behind ONLY Earvin.
People are underselling the loss of Austin Thornton. He was a monster leader on this team that was content with Green getting the attention as long as he got results. His stats will be picked up, but he was such a leader that his absence, albeit not as noticeable as Green, looms just as large.
Donoho. WCBI. Purdue. Purdue lost arguably one of the best players to ever don the old gold and black in Robbie Hummel this offseason. The 5th-year senior graduated and has left West Lafayette as one of the most popular Purdue basketball players ever and one of the more respected leaders in college basketball. Replacing his 16 points and 7 rebounds per game will be one thing, filling his leadership role will be another thing entirely. Next to Hummel, Purdue loses two senior leaders in Lewis Jackson and Ryne Smith. Lew Jack was the unquestioned signal caller at the point for the Boilers and became one of the go-to players down the stretch for Matt Painter. Along with Jackson and Hummel was the sharp-shooter Ryne Smith, who’s 43% 3-point range percentage will be hard to match going into next season.
John M. Crimson Quarry. IU lost three scholarship players–Verdell Jones III, Matt Roth, and Tom Pritchard, as well as invited walk-on Danny Moore and little-used walk-on Kory Barnett. I’ll always be grateful to those guys because they came to IU when the program was at rock bottom and fought through three horrible years before having some success as seniors. All that said, Jones, at 7.5 points per game, was the leading scorer among those who departed. Pritchard became a reliable defensive player but his offensive numbers declined nearly every year of his career. Roth and Moore were valuable bench players, but each played more as a freshman than in any later season (OSU fans may remember Roth’s 9 three pointers in a loss to OSU in 2009), which says something about the talent level.
Joe. Buckeye Empire. Jared Sullinger will be hard to replace the next few years. Offensively, he has been the heart and soul of the Buckeye attack. You can’t replace what he did on the court with just one player. Amir Williams will look to expand his game to help fill the void, and Thomas will help on thedefensive glass, but it’s going to be tough sticking with the same identity without the piece that finishes the puzzle. Sullinger averaged 17 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game in his time as a Buckeye. His scoring ability will be missed, but so to will be his instincts. He was one of the best in college basketball at distributing the ball out to the perimeter or to a streaking teammate. Ohio State loses another key talent in small forward William Buford. There are a lot of talented youngsters ready to take over his role as a scorer, but his instinct on the court will be missed. He averaged over 14 points and 5 rebounds a game and has been a staple in the Ohio State lineup the last four years. That experience on the floor will be hard to replace.
Andy. Mad Town Badgers. We lost Jordan Taylor, who was one of the best point guards we’ve had in the Bo Ryan era. He led the team in scoring with a 14.8ppg average and had 4.1apg and a 2.7 assist to turnover ratio. His leadership on and off the court is going to be very hard to replace as well. There were times last year where he singlehandedly willed the Badgers to victory and I don’t know if they have that player on this team in 2012-13.
Hondo. Spartan Nation. Garry Harris, Denzel Valentine and Matt Costello.
Harris is an all-everything player that can do magical things with the basketball. He can score from anywhere and has mastery of the court. Recruited by anyone of note, he is a star and a potential one and done player.
Valentine is the runner up for Mr. Basketball, a state champion and the son of former MSU great Carlton. He has owned the summer workouts to the point of one of his teammates telling me, “He’s our best player….” and adding, “I would buy a ticket to watch him.” He is the best passer MSU has had since Scott Skiles. Valentine may not have the notoriety of Harris, but he is just as good.
Costello brings in his Mr. Basketball hardware along with a big body and a relentless style of play. For sure the level of play goes up, but even over the summer you saw him own the paint. He can score, he can pass, he can rebound, and he can defend. Freshman in the Tom Izzo system do not often shine bright, but he has the potential and moxy. He has the makings of a great one.
Donoho. WCBI. Purdue. This isn’t anywhere near the ‘Baby Boiler’ freshman class of Hummel, Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, and Scott Martin…but some are saying it will be pretty darn close. Point man Ronnie Johnson is expected to make an immediate impact as he becomes the sole true point guard on a team searching for a new leading ball-handler. 6’5″ swing man Rapheal Davis could be the scoring freshman Matt Painter is looking for immediately in a new season. Jay Simpson has a similar game to a Kevin Garnett (long, tough, gritty, can play inside & outside…NOT saying he’s on the level of KG. Long way to go, just comparing their games). And 7-foot behemoth A.J. Hammons has been eluded to already. If you had to pick one to make the biggest immediate impact, it would be Ronnie Johnson. The speedy quick guard lit up the AAU circuit the past two off seasons and could end up being the steal of the summer for Matt Painter in recruiting. If he can be a threat as a jump shooter, teams will have a hard time containing him off the dribble. Redshirt freshman Donnie Hale may have the chance to shine after sitting out last year, but he’s still working into a playable role on this Purdue squad.
John M. Crimson Quarry. IU’s four man class includes two five star or borderline five star recruits, point guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell and power forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea. Those two are greeted with the most anticipation because they address two perceived weaknesses of last year’s IU team, the absence of a true point guard and a lack of frontcourt depth. In addition to those two, wing Jeremy Hollowell and center Peter Jurkin are the other members of the class. Jurkin may be a bit of a project, but the other three should contribute.
Joe. Buckeye Empire. Amedeo Della Valle is the only member of the 2012 class, and with only 11 players under scholarship, he could see some immediate time at the point this season. Thad Matta has said recently that he and the coaching staff have been pleased and a bit surprised by his progression this off-season, but with so many great guards on this team, it will be hard for him to break the lineup. He is a great jump shooter and even better passer, so it will be interesting to see where he works himself in throughout the year. Though he isn’t considered a newcomer, sophomore LaQuinton Ross will see his first full season as a Buckeye this year. Early on, he is the favorite to fill Buford’s swing position, because he brings a lot of the same values to the table. Offensively, he is a great all-around player with solid range and the ability to get to the hoop. Sam Thompson is way more agile and explosive, but Ross could be a “newcomer” that we see a lot of starting in late October.
Andy. Mad Town Badgers. We don’t have a lot of players in this class because we only lost two players off of the roster, but the class is expected to be a huge one because of one name – Sam Dekker. He was an absolute monster and one of the most highly recruited players Wisconsin has had in awhile. He will be a key contributor as a freshman, a rarity for Bucky. Also in the class is guard Zak Showalter, who would’ve been a walk-on had Jarrod Uthoff not transferred.
Hondo. Spartan Nation. Michigan. They are on the rise. Tom Izzo has dominated them in their era of futility, but with them on the way back, things are changing. Although they do not go after all the same players, in the state of Michigan this is a daily battle. They are now winning their share of games and a key for Izzo is trying to stem the tide of their resurgence.
Donoho. WCBI. Purdue. The time of Purdue being able to take advantage of IU is done. The Hoosiers have caught up after the Kelvin Sampson debacle and are clearly ahead of the game in the Hoosier State. It’s going to be a transition year for Purdue, but Boilermaker fans will be in a familiar role once again in 2012-2013 as the underdogs when they face off against IU in the new season. There’s no bigger game in the state of Indiana, and this season it’s more important than ever to show that Purdue still has the ability to compete with an IU team that is expected to challenge for a National Championship.
John M. Crimson Quarry. It’s hard to pinpoint any single game. Because Kentucky isn’t on the schedule, the North Carolina game in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge is going to be IU’s main opportunity in the pre-conference. In Big Ten play, while it may sound cliche, they are all important. IU enters the 2012-13 season facing higher expectations than in any of the previous 20 seasons. Obviously, games against the likes of OSU, Michigan State, Michigan, and rival Purdue will be big, but IU also has to avoid the occasional bad losses, such as last year’s losses to Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota. This season is more about overall goals than about individual games.
Joe. Buckeye Empire. Personally, I find that the basketball season is more
than a game by game sport. Momentum plays such a huge part in success, and really any team within a conference can defeat you on any single night. If there is a part of the schedule that I think is really important is in late February and early March. The Buckeyes host Illinois and Michigan State and have to go to Wisconsin and Northwestern (where they have struggled the last few seasons). Ending strong heading into the Big Ten Tournament could be a huge momentum shifter as well as important for a favorable seeding.
Andy. Mad Town Badgers. I think the most important game of the season is actually a two game road trip in conference play when we have to go back-to-back at Indiana and at Iowa. Indiana will be brutal for obvious reasons, but don’t sleep on Iowa – we’ll be out to avenge a season sweep by them last year.
Hondo. Spartan Nation. I think the Spartans are in the upper four of the B1G, but not winners of it. This will be the best conference in basketball, and if not, close. The depth is great and once again B1G basketball every night, for every team is much see TV.
Donoho. WCBI. Purdue. As mentioned before, this will be a transition season for Matt Painter and the Boilermakers. Don’t expect Purdue to challenge for a Big Ten championship. You can expect the Boilers to play tough, hard-nosed defense and get after it on both ends of the floor. With that being said, this team could surprise us all and show that they still have a bit of life left over from the Robbie Hummel years. But as un-biased as I can be, it won’t be a 22+ win season like Purdue has enjoyed the last five years. If you had to put a range on where you will see the Boilers finish: no higher than 3rd and no lower than 9th. The conference as a whole should be IU’s to lose this year. The amount of talent and experience the Hoosiers have returning is second to none in a conference that is experiencing a loss of leadership and talent from a year ago. Michigan State loses Draymond Green, Ohio State loses Jared Sullinger and William Buford, Michigan loses their do-everything player in Zack Novak, and Wisconsin won’t have Jordan Taylor hoisting up shots from 3 steps behind the arc with the shot clock at :02. IU’s only true competition for a title should be Michigan who returns Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. along with bringing in stud freshmen Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III. You can never count out Michigan State and Wisconsin, though. Ohio State will still be there with Thad Matta, Illinois has a new coach that you can never over-look, and Iowa will be much-improved this season.
John M. Crimson Quarry. I haven’t yet taken a systematic look at the league, but I would excpect IU, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State to be the contenders, and my guess is that something like 14-4 will be good enough to win the league. My initial inclination is that the conference won’t be quite as good from top to bottom, but I still feel great about where the Big Ten stands compared to the mid-2000s.
Joe. Buckeye Empire. Ohio State has the talent to be at the top of the conference. The question is can they put it together and win the games they should and compete in the ones
they shouldn’t. One thing that will be interesting to watch is how Ohio State will compete in the frontcourt against Indiana, Michigan and many of the other teams with good size and talented big men. The conference returns a ton of talent and also welcomes in a bunch of great freshman. This is going to be the conference to watch this upcoming season.
Andy. Mad Town Badgers. This is an interesting year for the conference as a lot of talent left after last season across the board, including at Wisconsin. History tells us Bo Ryan teams don’t finish outside the top four and they have one of the deepest front courts in the conference. So, I say the Badgers finish no worse than 4th, I say they will finish 3rd though if you had to pin me down to one specific spot.
Hondo. Spartan Nation. I don’t think they get to the Final Four, but I have seen MSU teams with less talent do it. Any time you have an Izzo led team it is a possibility. They have three big questions. If answered they have the tools to do it. They are: 1) Who will lead? 2) How do you keep so many players happy, content, and engaged with only one basketball? 3) With some key players having eyes on the NBA can they set aside those thoughts and think like a team? We shall see.
Donoho. WCBI. Purdue. Unless the NCAA decides to grant Robbie Hummel a 6th year of eligibility and he can get out of his contract overseas to return to the court and play for Purdue, I don’t see it. The Boilermakers haven’t made it to the Final Four since 1980 and they certainly aren’t going to do it during a year where they have just two seniors on the roster. A team like Purdue won’t make the Final Four with giants like Kentucky and North Carolina in their way unless they have players that have experience playing in the Big Dance. If Purdue does make the NCAA Tournament, it will be looked at as a successful season. They do need to protect their ‘longest active first round win streak’ (14 straight NCAA Tournaments winning their first game), which nearly went down to a furious comeback by 7-seed St. Mary’s a season ago. If the Boilers can continue that streak and make a run at the Sweet 16, 2012-2013 will be deemed as a successful season. Expectations are low starting out but if Purdue shows they can muster up some magic from the ‘Baby Boiler’ years, Boilermaker fans may start thinking bigger for the new season.
John M. Crimson Quarry. I really have no idea. Many of the people who look at these things say that IU is the top team in the country, and nobody seems to have them outside the top 3 or 4. Based on that, and based on IU’s 11-year absence from the Final Four, I do think that anything less than that will be a disappointment. On the other hand, as we all know, crazy things happen in the Tournament, so it’s tough to peg the success or failure of an entire season on that. Still, I think IU should be a Final Four contender because a) IU has the best player in the country; b) IU had one of the best offenses in the country last season; and c) IU returns nearly everyone of note, and adds five star recruits at the positions of greatest need. The major question mark is defense. IU was uneven on defense last season, and a truly championship-caliber team has to be very good at both ends of the court. IU’s offense was good enough to get the team to the Sweet 16. Offense alone won’t be enough to get beyond that point.
Joe. Buckeye Empire. The Buckeyes have the coaching, talent and experience to get back there. It all depends on how they play in March. The last two seasons have been fun to watch in the final month of college basketball and I
think we will see much of the same. You can almost guarantee that someone will make it to the promise land after a grueling season in the Big Ten. If players develop fully into their roles by the post-season, Ohio State should have a really good shot at making their way to the Final Four.
Andy. Mad Town Badgers. Absolutely do not see this team going to the final four. It’s a very talented team, but with a big question mark at point guard and our history under Bo Ryan you can’t possibly see this team going to the Final Four.